25th November 2008

Athletics Networks



25 November 2008


Column by England Athletics CEO Mike Summers as seen in Athletics Weekly Magazine.


Athletics Networks are quite simply about supporting the development and growth of club athletics, in particular supporting clubs to improve the quality of coaching.


It is a programme that will support clubs “here and now” but with one eye firmly fixed on 2012. People talk about “legacy” from the 2012 London Games and England Athletics believes that legacy will be created by strengthening volunteer clubs to harness the interest that the games will bring.


Our role will be to ensure the best support from our staff and to direct as much investment (time and finance)into clubs and coaches to create sustainable change. We don’t want people being enthused by what they see and doing nothing about it. We want to sustain this enthusiasm but we need the system to cope with it


The Athletics Networks programme is about supporting clusters of clubs to grow participation, keep people involved and to put the best systems in place locally for talent to thrive.


Our view is that clubscould be more effective by working together and poolingresources in specific areas. Naturally some clubs will be stronger in specific areas than others, particular in relation to coaching and event development. The notion of groups of coaches working together across clubs and in delivering joint school/club link work, composite competition (particularly in rural areas) to improve the sport in the local setting could be newto some.


A another key part of the Athletics Networks programme is to improve the links between athletics clubs and the HE/FE sector, particularly universities. Improving access for local coaches and aspiring club athletes to sports science, strength/conditioning and sports medicine provisions to support performance improvement is a big opportunity.


The investment will enable clubs in a network to fund their own coaching resources, which could include the employment of Network Coaching Coordinators, Coaches and the like, but also to purchase equipment, hire facilities and to improve the profile of the clubs in schools.


We hope that many clubs in networks will see the merits of match funding some of the finance we put into each and “growing” their plan by seeking local support from local authorities, schools and other grant giving bodies


There are many clubs already working closely with one another to drive the sport. This is a national policy that will focus the work of local EA staff in a consistent way across England. This does not mean that EA wont support clubs outside the Athletics Networks programme. A team of Club & Coach Support Officers based in local areas and serving 2/3 counties each, will be tasked with supporting all clubs and coaches on their patch


We would like to support a minimum of 50 Athletics Networks for a 3 year period leading up to 2012/3. We are sure that clubs will develop their own network outside of our formal programme which is great. The philosophy and culture of collaborative working between clubs should be encouraged anyway


The first wave of Athletics Networks will be announced in December with a further application phase being planned for the new year.